Saturday, February 25, 2012

New Holland Envious

Whilst browsing the beer menu at a local restaurant I stumbled across New Holland Envious. The idea of paying $10 for a single glass of beer was something that frightened, yet intrigued me. The menu noted that the envious was brewed with pear juice and fermented in oak barrels with champagne yeast and raspberries. Sounding like perhaps the most unique beer I've ever had, I couldn't pass this one up.

Served on tap, it was clear, reddish-brown color, with a small amount of tan head. The smell was very sweet. Cherries and raspberries are definitely noticeable, and I think I picked up a hint of figs as well. A slight, almost bready malty-ness accompanied the sweetness.

I was counting on this beer being unique, and it didn't disappoint. Fruits definitely dominate the taste of this beer, yet its not overly sweet. The oak flavor is noticeable but not overwhelming. A little malty-ness on the finish, with raspberry flavor and aroma throughout. It has a very pleasing, somewhat complex flavor. Sort of reminded me of three philosophers.

The envious was very satisfying, but not life changing. I would certainly drink it again... especially if someone else is paying. If I'm picking up the tab, this ones going to have to wait for a special occasion.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Homebrew update: Bottling!

After patiently waiting for the beer to ferment, it's finally time to bottle. I had been putting bottles back for a few months because I was planning on recycling, but reusing them is just as good. I soaked the bottles in water for a few hours, then started taking off the labels. Once I got enough naked bottles, I ran them through the dishwasher to make sure they were clean.

The night before bottling I sanitized all the bottles, bucket, bottling wand, caps and hoses. I boiled the priming sugar and added it to the second fermenter, allowing it cool for a few minutes. Once it was cool enough, I transfered the beer into the second fermenter. I stole a quick sip and was pretty satisfied, considering it was flat, room temperature beer.

Filling the bottles with the wand was pretty straight forward. I didn't make too much of a mess, though I did over fill a couple. I put the bucket on top of the fridge so I wouldn't have to fill the bottles on the floor. I used a regular hand held capper to cap the bottles, which worked fine enough. However, I'd really like to invest in a better model, or perhaps reusable caps.

I filled and capped 42 bottles. Now it's time to play the waiting game again, for another 2 to 3 weeks as the beer carbonates in the bottles.

This whole event has been quite the learning experience. Whether or not this batch is great, I definitely feel I learned enough to improve our technique and procedures next go around. Our next update will be in a few week and will be the most exciting... tasting! Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Homebrew Update

Our first batch of beer seems to be going rather smoothly so far. As I mentioned here, the brew was transferred from the primary fermenter to the secondary last week. Upon a brief taste test by Jason, it seems to be on it's way to being a pretty good brew. This week he will be working on removing labels from some bottles he had slated for recycling. He plans to sanitize them on Wednesday night and we should be bottling on Thursday. This is a pretty exciting step in the process because it puts us one step closer to drinking!

Today we made a trip to Gentile's, The Wine Sellers, a local wine shop that also has a great selection of homebrewing supplies, where we picked up the tubing needed for bottling and a capper. Also, since we had a slight issue during our primary fermentation in which the beer was bubbling up into the air lock (we put five gallons of beer in a five gallon bucket which left little room at the top), we bought a 7 gallon bucket to use as our primary fermenter going forward.

Finally, we purchased another recipe kit for our second brew, this time a wheat beer. For our first batch, we did not stray from the instructions included with the kit at all for fear of ruining our beer. After going through entire brewing process once, and doing some additional research, we feel comfortable making some alterations to the wheat beer recipe. We have an idea in mind that we're going to try, but more on this later. It should make for a pretty tasty brew, though!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Brewery Ommegang Three Philosophers

I'll jump straight to the point on this one; This is easily one of my top-five favorite beers ever. Three Philosophers is a Belgium-style quadrupel ale from Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York. This particular 750ml bottle was bottled in 2011 with a corked top. I don't often mention  the bottle the beer comes in because, really, who cares? However, it's worth mentioning that is beer is packaged quite beautifully.

What is inside the bottle, however, is even more beautiful. Three Philosophers is a brown, almost garnet color which pours with an awesome four fingers of frothy, beige head. Retention is really good and there is quite a bit lacing left behind on the glass. The aroma is intense and complex. It is rich with dark malts and fruits, such as raisins and dates. There is very little in the way of hops in the aroma, but there is some alcohol present.

The aroma is quite indicative of  the flavor, with the dark malts being the most prevalent. The fruitiness detected in the aroma is also present in the flavor, primarily in the form of raisins, but there is also "earthiness" to the taste. In addition to the raisins, there is also noticeable cherry flavor. In fact, the label indicates that "ale with cherries" is added to the beer. This is a sweet and fruity beer, but not overly so, with a full body and creamy mouthfeel. There is minimal hops bitterness, but, at nearly 10% ABV, there is a nice warming of the palate from the alcohol at the finish that helps balance things out.

I don't think I can overstate how awesome this beer is. I've had it a couple of times now and, much like reading a good novel several times, I seem to find something new each time that I didn't notice before. If you have not had Three Philosophers, it is absolutely a must-try.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Brooklyn Monster Ale

Brooklyn Monster Ale is my foray into barleywines so I was pretty excited to try it. The four-pack I picked up is a 2010 bottling so it has aged for over a year. It poured a hazy, copper color with about a finger and a half of off-white head. There was little head retention but the over-all look of this beer was quite stunning.

Being my first barleywine, I have no comparison for aroma or taste, so I can't vouch for true to style it is. The aroma was pleasant with notes of dark fruit, such as dates, raisins and figs, caramel malts, and perhaps a bit of citrus. My nostrils were also stung by a bit of alcohol in the aroma.

The taste is very true to the nose. It's malty with notes of the aforementioned fruits. It starts off sweet by finish dry with a bite from the hops and alcohol that lingers for bit on the tongue. This beer is 10% ABV, and the various flavors present do not do much to mask the alcohol taste, but it is not at all unpleasant. Body was medium was medium carbonation.

Given the name, I was expecting a bit more complexity to Monster Ale, but I'm not all disappointed. In fact, I'm quite looking forward to the other three (I may continue to age at least one of them). I will definitely by be trying some other barleywines, though, so I will have something to which to compare this. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Our First Attempt at Homebrewing

I mentioned not long ago that I was giving some serious thought to brewing my own beer. It's something that Jason and I had been talking about for a while but neither of  us had gotten around to purchasing the necessary materials. Well, the day after I wrote that post, Jason took the initiative by getting everything we needed, and on Saturday we brewed our first batch of beer!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Goose Island IPA

It seems we've been drinking a lot of IPA's lately, and we have yet another. This IPA is from Goose Island in Chicago. Goose Island has been one of my favorite breweries for while, and their IPA does not disappoint.

I love the color of this IPA. It's a very vibrant, almost orange color. It pours with about two fingers of head and leaves some nice lacing on the glass. The nose is, predictably, filled with citric, hoppy goodness, but it's not quite as intense as I would have expected. There is also a bit of malt present to balance out the hops aroma.

Like the smell, the taste is well balanced. Upfront, there is certainly a lot of citric hops. I also detected a bit of fruitiness, peach perhaps, which I found interesting. This IPA has a nice bread malt flavor as well to balance out the bitterness from the hops. It finishes dry and leaves behind some of that bitterness for a few seconds. The body is medium and it is well carbonated.

Goose Island produces some of my favorite beers and their IPA is no exception to that trend. This is a quality beer that will not disappoint.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Harpoon Chocolate Stout

Harpoon Chocolate Stout was included in the Harpoon Holiday 12-pack that Jason previously mentioned in his post about Harpoon IPA. I've had a couple chocolate stouts previously (Sam Adams' Chocolate Bock and Young's Double Chocolate Stout) and this is certainly my favorite.

It pours intensely black with a good three fingers-worth creamy, light tan head. Retention and lacing are great. The aroma is unmistakably chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, with perhaps a hint of roasted malt. Absolutely awesome!

Like most other type of dark beers, I find that the various flavors present in a chocolate beer present themselves better as the temperature of the beer increases toward room temperature. I drank Harpoon Chocolate Stout straight from the refrigerator and it was amazing. This beer is all about chocolate. On the front end you get a rich, sweet, almost milk chocolate taste. On the finish there is bit of bitterness akin to bar of dark chocolate. I also  detected a faint hint of coffee. Mouthfeel was very creamy with average carbonation.

I really hope this beer is available in a the 6-pack variety next holiday season because it is absolutely worth purchasing again. Other "chocolate" beers I've tried had tastes that were reminiscent of chocolate, but I found the flavor to be underwhelming. Harpoon Chocolate Stout is exactly what it says it is, and it is a pleasure to drink.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Some Thoughts on Homebrewing

As much as I love beer, I admit that I am far from an expert on the topic. However, ever since I was introduced to craft beer, I've been intrigued by the various styles of beer and the interesting ingredients used to produces them. Also, I'm deeply fascinated by the delicate process of brewing a great beer.

Therefore, in an effort to gain a better understanding of what it take to brew a really great beer, and to gain a greater appreciation of the brews and the artists that craft them, I've recently given serious consideration to homebrewing. I can't imagine a better way to get closer to an art form that you love (and I'm sure we can agree that brewing is, indeed, an art form) than to do it yourself. I imagine the only thing better than a great beer is a great beer crafted from your own hands and imagination.

Having said all of that, I have some concerns:

  1. Patience: Do I have the patience to brew a batch of beer? I understand that it can be a lengthy process, and I'm not known to be the most patient person in the world.
  2. Commitment: How committed will I actually be to brewing beer beyond, say, my first batch or two? I'm sure the quality of the beers I produce will have a lot to do with, but I don't want to make an investment in brewing equipment that will just get stored in the basement four months from now.
  3. Quality: How good will be beer be? I have zero brewing experience and I'd hate to spend a lot of time and money and end up with a crappy beer.
Therefore, I ask for your help. If you're an experienced homebrewer and you can offer any advise for newbie regarding equipment, recipes or resources (books, articles, etc), it would be greatly appreciated. In return, I'll share my (hopefully good) experiences along my homebrewing journey with you each step of the way.